Sharing Our Christian Hope

The Benedictine Center at St. Paul Monastery just posted part 2 of my two-part reflection on hope.  The reflection was drawn from an evening program I gave at the Benedictine Center last week, which referenced here.

The reflection posted today spoke about what sharing our Christian hope might look like in today’s world.

One of the points I made in part 2 is that conveying our Christian hope means we cannot allow ourselves to be demoralized by the brokenness of the world around us.  I quoted Henri Nouwen, who wrote

Cynics seek darkness wherever they go. They point always to approaching dangers, impure motives, and hidden schemes. They sneer at enthusiasm, ridicule spiritual fervor, and despise charismatic behavior.  People who have come to know the joy of God do not deny the darkness, but they choose not to live in it. They claim that the light that shines in the darkness can be trusted more than the darkness itself and that a little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness. They point each other to flashes of light here and there, and remind each other that they reveal the hidden but real presence of God.

That is what we do – we walk in a broken world pointing to the flashes of light that reveal the hidden but real presence of God.

You can read the entirety of my reflection on the Benedictine Center’s site here.


Faith-Based Social Justice Efforts

Some people’s spiritualities are more contemplative; others are more apostolic.  My own Ignatian spirituality as the latter – Ignatius invites us to help build God’s kingdom, right here and right now.

Not all people who care about social justice work from a faith perspective, but many do.  And those who do benefit from training and nurturing.  In that vein, I share here an initiative of the UU Fellowship in Huntington New York, to support their leaders in their work for justice, while deepening their spiritual grounding and supporting their overall development as leaders.  Their hope is to develop a curriculum that may ultimately be a model and resource, not only for their denomination, but for others.  You can read more detail about the project here.

I learned about this through a young woman I have known for a number of years through her friendship with my daughter.  She is a women of deep faith and deep commitment to social justice.  I have decided to financially support this venture and I am hoping you might consider doing so as well.

I know this is a time of year when many institutions are asking for money.  My mail contains at least several request every day, not to mention e-mails or phone calls asking for contributions.  But, please take a look at this project; a gift of any size would help!


Find That Flame

One of Hafiz’s poems instructs

Find the flame, that existence, that person
That can burn beneath the water.

No other kind of flame
Will cook the food
You need.

I had read the poem before, and found it again in an old issue of a magazine for spiritual directors.  The piece in which the poem appeared, by Lizz Budd Ellmann, offered the following questions for reflection.  You might consider one or more of them today.

What is the flame that cooks the food you need?

Where is the flame that cooks the food needed for peace?

What is the food you need to truly sustain you?

What is your poem about the flame that burns beneath water, transforming the world?

We Dare To Hope

Last week I offered an evening program at the Benedictine Center of St. Paul Monastery titled We Dare to Hope.  The title of the program came from a prayer written by Linda Jones.  The words are:

We dare to imagine a world where hunger has no chance to show its face.
We dare to dream of a world where wars and terror are afraid to leave their mark.
We long to believe in a world of hope unchained and lives unfettered.
We dare to work for the creation of a world where your people are free from poverty.  Your Kingdom come, O Lord, Your will be done. Amen.

The talk I gave addressed what we mean by hope and why hope is the central gift that we as Christians have to give our world.  I also spoke about what sharing our Christian hope might look like.

The Benedictine Center asked me to write something for their blog that captured my remarks of that evening.  Those remarks will be published in two parts.  The first part has been posted, and you can read it here.  Look for the second part next week.

The bottom line is this:  We cannot become demoralized by the brokenness of the world in which we live.  We must dare to hope and must share that hope.  The consequences of not doing so would be deadly, not only to our own well-being, but to that of the world.

An Examen for Civic Life

The Ignatian Solidarity Network has put out an Ignatian Examen for Civic Life.

Many of us, especially those whose spirituality is Ignatian, engage in a daily Examen – a process of prayerfully reflecting on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us.

The Examen for Civic Life contains some great questions to sit with as you prayerfully prepare to vote tomorrow.  Here are some of the questions:

• What energizes you or brings you closer to God as you reflect on our country?

• What distracts you or makes you feel farther from God as you reflect on our country?

• What is the current situation of your brothers and sisters, particularly those who are most vulnerable and often marginalized by poverty and injustice?

• What are the ways that your identity and privileges shape your perspective and vision for our country?

• What areas of your life as a faithful citizen do you lament?

• What communities, groups, or aspects of creation in our nation need healing and reconciliation?

• What is God’s desire for people who are marginalized by poverty and injustice?

• What areas of your life/our nation’s life do you rejoice in and celebrate fidelity to Gospel values?

However you vote tomorrow, make sure it is consistent with God’s dream for our world.

A Wish For How We Live Our Lives

My peer supervision group met yesterday, which happened to be my birthday.  Here is the chant the members of my group sang as our opening prayer:

On the day you were born
you cried, and the world rejoiced.
Live your life so that on the day you die
the world cries and you rejoice.

I was struck by the beauty and the simplicity of the wish.  And it is what I wish for all of us.

PS We also had donuts with candles in them and a Happy Birthday song.  As well as a great supervision session.  I am filled with gratitude for this group, which supports each of us in our growth as spiritual directors and women.

The Beatitudes and the Witness of the Saints

Yesterday I gave a talk at Our Lady or Lourdes Church with the above title.  The title comes from Chapter 3 of Pope Francis’ most recent Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et exultate (in English, Rejoice and Be Glad), promulgated earlier this year on the Solemnity of St. Joseph.   As is true of everything this Pope writes, the document evidences his formation in Ignatian Spirituality, which is an apostolic one, that is, a spirituality that emphasizes the experience of being sent forth by God to act on behalf of the neighbor in witness to the Gospel and in imitation of Jesus’ life.

My talk shared some of my own and Francis’ observations about each of the Beatitudes.  And, given our proximity to All Saints Day, I gave examples of saints that I thought embodied each of the Beatitudes.  Following are my examples; perhaps a good exercise in these days leading up to All Saints Day would be to see who you would consider a good embodiment of each.

Poverty of spirit – Ignatius of Loyola; Francis of Assisi
Meekness – Therese of Lisieux
They who mourn – Oscar Romero; Damien of Molokoi
Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness – Teresa of Avila
Merciful (which Pope Francis sees as embodying service as well as forgiveness) – Vincent dePaul
Peacemakers – Dorothy Day

Near the end of my talk, I also shared Pope Francis’ observations about ideologies that seek to undercut what Jesus calls us to in the Beatitudes.  First, he speaks of the error of “those Christians “who separate these Gospel demands from their personal relationship with the Lord, from their interior union with him, from openness to his grace.”  The examples he gives of saints who understood that their prayer and love of God did not detract from their commitment to their neighbors are St. Francis, St. Vincent and St. Teresa of Calcutta.

The second ideological error the Pope identified is “those who suspect the social engagement of others, seeing it as superficial, worldly, secular, materialist, communist or populist.”  Or, he says, they relativize it, suggesting it is less important than other issues. But life is life.  So while defense of the innocent and unborn must be vigorous, “equally sacred…are the lives of the poor, the destitute, the abandoned, the vulnerable etc.” Holiness, he says, cannot ignore injustice and suffering anywhere.